Looking for fresh bites and forgotten treasures to return for?
Here are the Tucson Foodie staff picks of the best things we tasted in November.
Churrasco de Brazil - There wasn't anyone particular thing that stood out so much as did the entire experience. Every meat that was brought out to the table when our cards were green was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The buffet complements the meat well.
Pastrami Randy at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery - It doesn't say "Quality Meats" on HUB's logo just because it looks cool. They make their pastrami in house and it sure is tasty. The Randy features coleslaw instead of sauerkraut, but a regular Reuben is available, too, along with straight pastrami on rye.
Kimchi Fries at Nook - Hello and welcome to a happy moment: Kimchi Fries from Nook — and they just extended their hours for weekend dinner. The hanger steak was perfectly cooked and delicious. I’m not sure how one caramelizes kimchi, but chef Matt did and it was a wonderful discovery. Combine that with the richness of Oaxaca cheese and mayo and you have yourselves a craveable dish.
Red Wine Salt from Desert Provisions & Sand-Reckoner - This is the time of year when persimmons finally make it back to the produce section. The folks from Desert Provision’s and Sand-Rekoner Vineyards made a delicious (and beautiful) Red Wine Salt. I put it on my mushy Hachiya persimmon and BOOM it was a salty-sweet bite from the heavens. Give this Sonoran Sea Salt a try on any of your favorite fruits. Yum.
Green Goddess dressing at Commoner & Co. - Commoner & Co just reopened with a terrific fresh produce bowl from locally sourced Pivot Produce covered in their yummy house-made Green Goddess dressing. It felt nostalgic and new at the same time and the seasonal veg was perfect.
Tombstone Burger at Roadhouse Theater - As a family, we do a weekly film night at Roadhouse Theatre, and, after many weeks of not trying it, I had a bite of my son’s Tombstone Burger. I was blown away. I generally like a simple burger with great beef, but this was pretty much a perfect burger bite, cooked beautifully and covered in bacon and fried onions and all sorts of sloppy stuff. Yes, please.
Cabeza taco at Tacos Apson - I finally had my first cabeza taco from Tacos Apson. I know. Sacrilege! It was delicious and perfect along with their pickled, spicy veg on the side.
Downtown eats — When you have a downtown courtyard bejeweled with food trucks walking distance from your desk, you step out and investigate. On one particular weekday lunch break, Nhu Lan Vietnamese and Takoyaki Balls stood proudly side-by-side and I did what any foodie would do... supported both. 😉 Love, love a banh mi. Nhu Lan's grilled pork is my go to. Fresh, crunchy veg; warm chunks of pork flavored with lemongrass; and a fresh-yet-crispy baguette... Salivating thinking about it. And, if you're going to eat takoyaki balls, only do it here. You want the scratch-made balls with chunks of octopus and all the fixin's.
And then, an enormous Elote Pizza from Empire Pizza & Pub was hand-delivered to the TF office (the same day). If you haven't tried it, run. I mean, the heavens are smiling upon us.
Molletes at Fonda La Hermanita — With a simple menu that packs a flavorful punch, I'm sure you'll be satisfied regardless of what you choose. I went with the Molletes, a split bollilo roll with melted queso Oaxaca, salsa negra, local greens, and my filling of choice: Chipotle-braised hibiscus flowers and free-range chicken. Eating hibiscus flowers was even more magical than I imagined, so if you're looking for a plant-based option... this is it. Get the side of Arroz Verde.
Pop Corn Old Fashioned at PY Steakhouse — This year I spent my Halloween at PY Steakhouse at the Casino del Sol. I feasted on Oysters at the bar whilst dressed up in my cat ears and the food was delicious! But the real standout was the Pop Corn Old Fashioned, a special drink from the bar supervisor Stephen for the holiday. It was made with butter-washed mellow corn whiskey, corn-infused simple syrup, and bitters. And while you probably can't taste this particular drink, I am sure that Stephen can whip up something amazing for you. Don't miss the Happy Hour at the bar, with specials on cocktails and appetizers, it's one of the best deals in town.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cota from Tavolino — Foothills-area Italian fave Tavolino is in the process of updating its menu with a few new dishes. On a recent photoshoot, I was lucky enough to taste a few of the new items including the Vanilla Bean Panna Cota, which might be my new favorite dessert in town. It's so luscious and subtly sweet with a tart raspberry sauce and fresh berries. If you're a dessert person, don't miss this one.
Albondigas at Penca — All of chef David Solorzano's new menu dishes at Penca are a delight, but the one that I find myself craving is the Albondigas. It's an appetizer on the menu, but to me, it's the perfect sized meal for one. I could see myself sitting at the bar with a good book, sangria, and this dish. The sauce is complex and flavorful, and they are served on a pool of grits with topped with micro cilantro. Perfection.
Confit Porchetta Sandwich from Forbes Meat Company & Baja Arizona Bread — Local butcher Ben Forbes and local baker Joshua Taylor teamed up earlier this month to sell a glorious sandwich for one day only, as a pop-up. The butcher was in charge of the fillings, while the baker supplied the bread. On toasted sourdough made with local grains, the sandwich was piled high with confit porchetta, pepperoncini's, arugula, pickled onion, and aioli. This partnership is a match made in sandwich heaven, so follow Ben and Joshua on social media to find out when their next collab will happen.
Chorizo Frybread at The Red Light Lounge - This was easily the best frybread I've ever had. The dough was lighter and had an explosive flavor impact with a combination of queso asadero, pickled hibiscus onion, cilantro lime aioli, queso fresco, sunny egg, cilantro, and spicy greens. I reheated leftovers on a skillet the next morning and it was still fantastic.
Cauliflower Tacos at El Torero - While the specials menu tempted me with scallops and pork belly, I went with vegetables instead and did not regret it one bit. The cauliflower was not battered and fried to a deep brown with nutty flavors. The truffle hot sauce and beautiful plating were a bonus.
Ensalada de Betabel at Penca - As it turns out, earthy beets pair marvelously with other earthy flavors in Mexican cuisine. Here, the beet is presented both pickled and roasted along with goat cheese, pumpkin seed salsa, and orange vinaigrette.
Grilled Salmon at Tito & Pep - Seemingly simple but complex in flavor, this salmon dish comes with roasted calabaza, crunchy garlic, and a deeply savory green chili dashi.
Michelada at Louie's Pub - Both Louie's Pub and El Torero gave me the best micheladas I've had in the past year. El Torero already got a shout-out above here, so I'll give Louie's the michelada edge here with its lovely ratio of umami, spice, and acidity. Louie is tight-lipped about his recipe, but maybe one day I'll figure it out.
Garlic Vegetables at Chef Wang Chinese Restaurant - This dish might just have been Chinese bitter greens with garlic and maybe chicken broth, but the technique was impeccable. The tenderness was perfect and the greens were still vibrantly green. A lovely break from all the other fierce complex dishes at the table.
Want more? Read up on other best bites in 2019 (organized by month):